UFC 45 on Nov. 21, 2003, was held 10 years to the month after the Ultimate Fighting Championship's debut. And the company was up to the occasion, as it inducted its inaugural class into the UFC Hall of Fame.
Both Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock were honored in a ceremony at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Gracie, of course, both revolutionized the fight world and put UFC on the map by using jiu-jitsu to win three of the first four UFC tournaments. And Shamrock was the first holder of the UFC Superfight title, the forerunner to today's heavyweight title.
Unfortunately, the night didn't quite live up to expectations, as a pair of controversial undercard matches, combined with a booze-soaked crowd not educated to the nuances of the sport, left the arena flat for the main event.
The first was a middleweight grudge match between Phil Baroni and the late Evan Tanner. Baroni spent most of the first half of the first round mercilessly pounding the grounded Tanner. Referee Larry Landless didn't stop the fight but did pause the match to allow the doctor to check Tanner's cut.
The fight continued, and a rested Tanner reversed position on Baroni and began dishing out punishment from the top. Landless asked Baroni if he wanted the fight stopped, misheard Baroni and stopped the match at 4:42 of the first.
At first, the largely pro-Baroni crowd booed the decision. Then Baroni shoved Landless, which cause the crowd to turn on Baroni even more vociferously. Baroni was suspended for four months for putting his hands on a referee.
That incident left the 9,200 in attendance in an ugly mood for the next fight, a brawl between punchers Tank Abbott and Wes "Cabbage" Correira. Abbott got the biggest response from the crowd of any competitor on the evening, but he was TKOd in just 2:14. After the fight, both corners got into an altercation that was calmed down just before a full-scale brawl broke out, leading the crowd to litter the cage with garbage.
After the pair of unsatisfactory finishes, the crowd stayed flat for the rest of the card, which featured Matt Hughes retaining the UFC welterweight title against Frank Trigg via rear naked choke in 3:54 of Round 1.
The undercard featured the UFC swan song for two can't-miss prospects who never quite lived up to the hype. Pedro "The Rock" Rizzo defeated former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez via unanimous decision in a stinker of a match. Both fighters were on the last fight of their contracts, and neither was renewed.
"Ruthless" Robbie Lawler got back in the win column by defeating Chris Lytle by decision, but his status as the future of the welterweight division stayed in question. Lawler, coming off his first career loss (to Pete Spratt), won a sensational first round but backed off in an actionless second and lost the third. This win was followed by losses to Nick Diaz and Evan Tanner, which paved Lawler's road out of the UFC.
Yves Edwards was scheduled to face Din Thomas on the card, with the winner to get unofficial recognition in the UFC's then-titleless lightweight division. But Thomas pulled out with an arm injury, and Edwards instead defeated sub Nick Agallar via second-round knockout.
Yves Edwards def. Nick Agallar, TKO, 2:14 R2
Keith Rockel def. Chris Ligouri, submission (guillotine choke), 3:29 R1
Robbie Lawler def. Chris Lytle, unanimous decision
Pedro Rizzo def. Ricco Rodriguez, unanimous decision
Evan Tanner def. Phil Baroni, TKO, 4:42 R1
Wesley Correira def. Tank Abbott, TKO, 2:14 R1
Matt Lindland def. Falaniko Vitale, submission (strikes), 4:23 R3
UFC welterweight championship: Matt Hughes def. Frank Trigg, submission (rear naked choke), 3:54 R1 (Hughes retains title)
- Phil Baroni
- Evan Tanner